Initials are the first letters of words, (from ‘initium’, the Latin for ‘beginning).
As abbreviations they stand for the names and titles of margraves and other aristocrats. They are found on coats of arms such as those over the entrance in Wirsberg (picture): FMZBC – Friedrich Markgrave zu (of) Brandenburg-Culmbach. Even the inscription above Jesus’ cross was an abbreviation; INRI stood for ‘Jesus Nazarenus Rex Iudorum’ – ‘Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews.’ In the mockery of governor Pilate’s ‘King of the Jews’, Jesus Christ’s true claim to power is in fact subsequently seen. Just as these do, the princes’ initials on their coats of arms express their earthly power and rule.
It is particularly clear when just one single large initial is shown on the altar or the church wall. The initial becomes a monogram. Since time immemorial, powerful people have had these stamped on coins and signed charters with them. The custom spread far and wide in art as the mark of an artist, and amongst civilians to distinguish their own personal property, and today we have brands. The initials ‘F’ (picture:Benk) and ‘A’ of Margraves Friedrich and Alexander are found particularly often in the churches, but also the monogram of the Prussian King Friedrich Wilhelm II. (e.g. Eckersdorf and Ludwigsstadt). When the region became part of the kingdom of Bavaria, the name of a king or a margrave was no longer added to the coat of arms; instead the Christian monogram formed from the Greek letters Chi and Ro was used.